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Brain Tumor

Our Approach

Dr. Jeffrey Weinberg

Neurosurgeon Jeffrey Weinberg, M.D., has years of experience in treating brain tumors. Dr. Weinberg was instrumental in bringing BrainSuite® intraoperative MRI to MD Anderson. 

Each patient who comes to MD Anderson’s Brain and Spine Center for brain tumor treatment receives customized care from some of the nation’s top experts. From diagnosis through treatment and follow-up, you are the focus of a team of specialists who personalize your therapy for your unique situation.

We have one of the most active programs in the country for treatment of benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancer) brain tumors. This gives us a level of expertise and experience that can translate into more successful outcomes for many brain tumor patients.

Our team approach to care brings together more than 70 highly trained physicians from some 14 areas, all dedicated to brain tumor care or research. Each team is joined by a specially trained support staff. They all work together closely to be sure you receive individualized care.

Specialized, Comprehensive Care

Successful brain tumor care depends on accurate diagnosis. At the Brain and Spine Center, four neuropathologists focus only on diagnosing brain and spine tumors. This sets us apart from many other cancer centers and helps us target each tumor for optimal outcomes.

MD Anderson neurosurgeons are among the most skilled and recognized in the world. They perform a large number of brain tumor surgeries each year, using the least-invasive and most-advanced techniques.

And, MD Anderson has the most-modern technology and techniques available to treat brain tumors, including:

Pioneering Research

Several brain tumor treatments that are standard care around the world were discovered here, including:

  • Berubicin, the first blood-brain penetrating agent
  • Temozolomide, a drug to treat glioblastoma

And, we continue to look at new diagnostic and treatment approaches, including attacking disease on a molecular basis. We are able to offer clinical trials of target therapies in some cases.

We are proud to be one of the few cancer centers in the nation to house a prestigious federally funded brain tumor SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) program. We’re studying new ways to prevent and treat brain tumors to give patients everywhere futures filled with hope.

If you have been diagnosed with a brain tumor, we’re here to help. Call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

Why Choose MD Anderson?

  • Innovative brain tumor treatments including proton therapy, GammaKnife radiosurgery, targeted therapies
  • Advanced surgical techniques to avoid damage to critical areas, including awake craniotomy and Brainsuite®
  • Team approach to brain tumor care
  • Specialized neuropathologists for pinpoint brain tumor diagnosis
  • Range of clinical trials of investigative agents for brain tumors

Brain Cancer Knowledge Center

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Brain Cancer Survivor Christine Butterfield

Christine Butterfield

"Being treated at MD Anderson was the silver lining for me. I kept thinking, what a privilege I get to be here."

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Brain Tumor Facts

About 17,000 people are diagnosed with cancer that began in or next to the brain every year in the United States. These are called primary brain cancers. Another 100,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in the brain or spinal cord that spread (metastasized) from another place in the body. These are called secondary brain cancers.

Most types of brain tumors are slightly more common in men than women. Meningiomas are more common in women.

Growth Causes Problems

Some brain tumors grow slowly and may become quite large before causing symptoms. Others may grow quickly and cause a sudden onset of symptoms. While most types of brain cancer may spread within the brain, few spread beyond the brain. Because the skull is rigid, providing no room for the tumor to expand, brain tumors may press on parts of the brain that control movement, speech, sight or other vital functions.

Even when brain tumors are benign (not cancer), they can cause serious problems. Although non-cancerous brain tumors usually grow slower than cancerous brain tumors, they may damage and press against normal brain tissue or the spine as they grow.

Brain Has Crucial Roles

Emotions, thought, speech, vision, hearing, movement and many more important parts of everyday life begin in the brain. The brain sends messages throughout the body via the spinal cord and cranial nerves in the head.  The network of the brain and spinal cord is called the central nervous system (CNS). Tumors can develop in the spinal cord and cranial nerves.

The hard, bony skull protects the brain, and the bones (vertebrae)of the spine protect the spinal cord. A liquid called cerebrospinal fluid surrounds both the brain and the spinal cord. 

The brain has four main parts:

Cerebrum: The outer and largest part of the brain. The cerebrum has two halves that are called hemispheres. It is responsible for:

  • Emotions
  • Reasoning
  • Language
  • Movement of muscles
  • Senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, touch
  • Perception of pain

Basal ganglia: These are found deeper inside the brain. They play a part in muscle movement.

Cerebellum: This section is at the back of the brain. It helps control and coordinate movement, such as walking and swallowing.

Brain stem: The brain stem is at the base of the brain. Its nerve fibers carry messages between the cerebrum and the rest of the body. This small area is very important and even plays a part in breathing and heartbeat.

Brain Tumor Types

Brain tumors are classified by the types of cells within the tumor. Each type of brain tumor grows and is treated in a different way.

The main types of brain tumors are as follows. The type of cells where they begin are in parentheses.

  • Adenoma (pituitary gland)
  • Chordoma (skull and spine)
  • Craniopharyngioma (pituitary gland)
  • Dermoid cysts and epidermoid tumors
  • Germ cell tumors, including germinomas (near the pineal gland)
  • Gliomas: This is the main group of brain tumors, occurring in 65% of cases. It includes:
    • Glioblastoma multiforme (glial cells and oligodendrocytes). This is the type of brain cancer found most often in adults.
    • Astrocytoma (glial cells of tissue that supports nerve cells)
    • Oligodendroglioma (oligodendrocytes in the myelin sheath around nerve fibers in the brain)
    • Ependymoma (the ventricles in tissue lining the spaces within the brain)
  • Hemangioblastoma (cells that develop into blood vessels)
  • Medulloblastoma (cerebellum)
  • Meningioma (meninges, the layers of tissue covering the brain)
  • Osteoma and osteosarcoma (bones of the skull)
  • Pinealoma (pineal gland)
  • Pituitary adenoma (pituitary gland)
  • Sarcoma (connective tissue)

Brain Metastases

Cancers that metastasize (spread) to the brain are called metastases. They may grow in one or several parts of the brain. Many types of cancer can spread to the brain. The main types are breast cancer, lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancers, malignant melanoma, leukemia and lymphoma.

Lymphomas of the brain often are found in people who have AIDS. For unknown reasons, they are increasingly being found in people with normal immune systems.

If you have been diagnosed with a brain tumor, we’re here to help. Call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center